The Friday Five: 5 Unpopular NBA Jerseys (I Actually Like)

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.

The 2016 NBA regular season is winding down, and we’re still a couple of months away from getting a steady stream of concrete information about NBA Live 17 and NBA 2K17. In recent weeks, I’ve been talking a lot about what I’d like to see in the upcoming games, both on the NLSC Podcast and in the Friday Five, and I will continue to do that. However, I thought I’d change things up in today’s Five, and talk a little about fashion. Well, on-court fashion in the NBA, at any rate.

This week, I’m talking about NBA jerseys that tend to be unpopular, or make a lot of “worst NBA jerseys” lists, that I actually happen to like. I can’t defend them all as outstanding or timeless designs, as some of them are definitely products of their era, but I still like them all the same. I know that I’m definitely not alone in liking some of these jerseys, but some fans might declare it to be a sign of bad taste. Nevertheless, here are five unpopular NBA jerseys that I don’t dislike the same way a lot of people do.

1. Houston Rockets Jerseys (1995-2003)

Retro Houston Rockets jerseys, as worn by Hakeem Olajuwon in NBA Live 16

The infamous “pyjama” jerseys have been ridiculed since they were unveiled twenty one years ago. Houston was gunning for its third straight championship, and took the opportunity to debut brand new jerseys and logos for the 1996 campaign. Of course, things didn’t quite go to plan, as the Chicago Bulls went 72-10 and won their fourth championship of the decade. In my opinion though, the Rockets still looked stylish on route to winning 48 games. They also knocked out the 53-win Los Angeles Lakers, before ultimately succumbing to the eventual Western Conference Champion Seattle SuperSonics in the second round.

I do get why fans think those jerseys look like pyjamas, but pinstripes are a good look, and one that not too many NBA teams have sported over the years. I also get that not everyone is a fan of the new logo, which is often described as cartoonish…and you know how I feel about that particular buzzword! At the time though, I think it was a fresh and modern look for the team, as were the jerseys. I obviously am partial to that era though, and those uniforms always remind me of Charles Barkley’s memorable stint with the Rockets. Incidentally, this play in particular is one that sticks out in my mind.

2. Washington Wizards Jerseys (1997-2011)

Retro Washington Wizards jerseys, as worn by John Wall in NBA 2K16

Given how strange it looked when Michael Jordan donned Washington Wizards jerseys from 2001 through 2003, you’d think that I might dislike those uniforms. However, I’ve actually always kind of liked them. That’s not to say I particularly enjoyed seeing Michael Jordan wear them, but when the Bullets became the Wizards in 1997, unveiling their new logos and jerseys, I thought it was a big improvement on the somewhat dated designs they’d been using since the 80s. As for the Wizards moniker itself…well, I really have no preference between it and Bullets.

During this era, the Wizards did update their jerseys a couple of times, but they were fairly minor changes. It’s another design that’s been derided as being “cartoonish”, but I liked that it was distinctive, clearly standing out from other NBA jerseys. On the whole, I think it’s a pretty good, clean design, and for that matter, not particularly cartoonish. As I’ve said before, that’s a fairly ill-defined, blanket buzzword to begin with. These jerseys don’t represent the most successful time in Washington’s history, but I do think they at least looked pretty stylish out on the court during those years.

3. Vancouver Grizzlies Jerseys (1995-2001)

Retro Vancouver Grizzlies jerseys, as worn by Mike Conley in NBA Live 16

This is one of two entries on my list that I can’t really defend as a fantastic design, at least in the conventional sense. I mean, I think there have been worse designs, especially in recent years, but the Vancouver Grizzlies’ jerseys were a little over the top. The trim, the wordmark, and the colour of the road jersey are all a bit loud, but you know what? Together they made for a fairly unique jersey, quite different from anything we’ve seen before or since. The same goes for the original Toronto Raptors jerseys, though they seem to be a bit more popular.

Personally, I find the current Memphis Grizzlies’ jerseys to be a bit plain and generic. It’s hard to explain why I find them boring, yet consider the jerseys for the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, and Boston Celtics to be timeless and classic. The fact that they’re such a stark departure from a design that was quite unique – for better or worse – probably has something to do with it. It also doesn’t help that the Utah Jazz adopted similar jerseys around the same time. The jerseys they wore during their first couple of years in Memphis were alright in my opinion, but I still favour those garish uniforms they came into the league with, “interesting” though they were.

4. Detroit Pistons Jerseys (1996-2001)

Retro Detroit Pistons jerseys, as worn by Andre Drummond in NBA 2K16

I can’t really defend the Detroit Pistons’ jerseys from around the same time as outstanding designs, either. Well, I kind of will, but I do have to acknowledge one thing. Yes, the teal was a stark departure from the Pistons’ classic red and blue colour scheme, but I didn’t think it looked that bad. Of course, looking back, it wasn’t the best choice, either. I really liked the Pistons’ “horsepower” logo from around that time though, and I thought it still looked good when they recoloured it in 2001 to match the return to the red and blue jerseys. I feel they could’ve done something similar with their uniforms, though I do also like the look they went with.

As you’ve probably noticed, there’s a common theme with all these 90s jerseys that I like. Aside from pure nostalgia, I like the fact that a lot of the uniforms stood out from one another. Even with teams that had similar colour schemes – or at least a similar primary colour – there were details on the jerseys that made them unique, and more instantly recognisable. The “horsepower” jerseys are admittedly a product of their time, and aside from Hardwood Classics nights, they probably should stay in the 90s. However, for a design that’s often heavily criticised, I do like them, and think they’re a little better than they’re often made out to be.

5. Golden State Warriors Jerseys (2002-2010)

Retro Golden State Warriors jerseys, as worn by Stephen Curry in NBA 2K16

In 2002, the Golden State Warriors made a few tweaks to the design that they had introduced in 1997. While I do still kind of like the 1997 version of the jerseys, the 2002 re-design is a lot cleaner, and more of a classic look. Most of the disdain seems to be aimed at the 1997 design and it’s not unwarranted, as the thunderbolt trim is probably a bit much. However, a lot of people seemed really happy when the newer design was in turn done away with, in favour of the Warriors’ current uniforms. Honestly though, I prefer the look they had from 2002 through 2010; both the jerseys and the logos.

You can probably chalk it up to some late 90s nostalgia for the logo, and Jason Richardson’s performance in the 2003 Slam Dunk Contest for the jerseys. Again, I do understand the dislike for the thunderbolt jerseys, but I’ve always found the logo and second incarnation of the jerseys to be sleek, slick, and modern looking, so I don’t get the hate for them. Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, and the rest of the 2007 Warriors certainly made them look good, when they upset the defending Western Conference Champion Dallas Mavericks…to say nothing of this dunk on Andrei Kirilenko in the second round.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to dislike these jerseys. There are certainly legitimate criticisms that you can make about the designs, and nostalgia does play a role in my appreciation for them. All the same, for all the scorn they sometimes receive, I still do like those jerseys, mad as it may seem to some people. Which unpopular NBA jerseys do you have a fondness for? Let me know in the comments section below, and feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum. That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.

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March 19, 2016 12:13 am

1 – +/-,
2 – worse
3 – even worse
4 – bad
5 – bad
Sorry, but IMHO. 🙂
There is an antitop. 😉
Please return teams logo on to jerseys, leave not just text only!